Biscotti

December 1, 2008 at 2:28 am (Cook) (, )

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Biscotti are quite possibly my favorite cookie to bake. If I’m cooking for myself, a simple chocolate chip or plain oatmeal cookie will suffice, but biscotti is the number one choice for socializing.
I nearly always bake some biscotti to tuck away into the Airstream before a trip. They can be packed up in tins, Tupperware, or even a Zip-Loc bag and still remain, for the most part, whole and intact.
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The absolute best thing about biscotti, though, is their versatility. Depending on your guests or your mood, biscotti will go with almost anything. They are the perfect dipping cookie. And, because of their subtle, elemental flavors, and subtle sweetness, they can go into just about anything. It is perfectly acceptable to dunk biscotti in coffee, tea, milk, and even wine. Yea, cookies that go with wine!! Even Oreos can’t make that claim.

For the unfamiliar, biscotti are a twice-baked, oblong-shaped cookie from Italy. Biscottio, means twice cooked, and comes from the custom of baking cookie dough in long slabs, cutting it into thick, long cookies, and baking them again. After the second bake, they lose any excess moisture, making them nice and crunchy, and sturdy enough to travel or be shipped. Biscotti are in the same cookie family as Mandelbrot, the traditional Jewish cookie made with oilgt. Mandelbrot is typically filled with walnuts or almonds and flavored with a bit of cinnamon. Biscotti will call for hazelnuts or almonds, and is crispier than mandelbrot due to its second baking.
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There are hundred of recipes for biscotti throughout Italy, but other than flavoring (biscotti can also be subtly-sweet or savory) they fall into two distinct categories: those made with butter and those made without butter or any shortening. The cookies made with butter have a more tender shortbread-like texture, while those without are drier, harder, and crunchier.
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Double Chocolate Biscotti
adapted from Biscotti by Lou Seibert Pappas, Chronicle Books, 1992

2/3 c sliced or slivered almonds
½ c butter
¾ c sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp Amaretto, Kahlua, or double-strength coffee
2 c plus 2 tbsp flour
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2/3 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place nuts in a shallow pan and toast over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until you start to smell them. Keep stirring to prevent any hotspots. Let cool.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and liqueur or coffee. In a bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Using a sturdy spoon, add the creamed sugar, and mix until thoroughly blended. Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.

Divide dough in half. On a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper, pat out dough into two logs about ½ inch high, 1 ½ inches wide, and 14 inches long, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake in the middle of a preheated 325° oven for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven. Gently lifting the parchment paper, transfer the logs onto a cooling rack. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Place on a cutting board. With a serrated knife, or even better, an electric knife, slice diagonally on a 45 degree angle about ½ inch thick. Place the slices upright back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Store in a tightly covered container.
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P.S. While cutting the biscotti, you are likely to create a lot of crumbs. If you can resist the urge to lick them off the cutting board, save them in a Zip-Loc and store in the freezer. Use them to crumble on ice cream, top off some tiramisu, or sprinkle over oatmeal.

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Peanut Butter Paisley Brownies

October 13, 2008 at 7:32 pm (Cook) (, , , )

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Over the course of the summer, which I define as June 1 through about September, and sometimes October, it rained a total of two times. Two times and one short, barley wet the pavement, sprinkle.

And then today the skies opened up with a gulley washer. Full-on, all day rain. Rainy days, especially chilly rainy days, make me want to bake. However, with the state of my kitchen, my baking is hindered. I was also craving chocolate, but had very little in the house. After a thorough search, all I could find was some Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

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Undeterred, my mind already made up to bake, I had to find a way to satisfy my cravings. Digging through the Hershey’s website, I found a good starting place: Peanut Butter Paisley Brownies. Basically, they are marbled blondies with peanut butter and chocolate syrup. A good plan was in place, but I was still not certain; the recipe called for peanut butter chips. What to do? A quick jaunt to the convenience store depletes some of the cache of rainy day cooking, but I scored with 2 bags of regular M&Ms and 2 bags of peanut butter M&Ms, completely making up for the loss of points for venturing out.

They were easy to mix up, but I really thought the blondie/peanutty/brownie dough was far too sweet. Delaying a final decision until they had been baked, I kept going, folding in the M&Ms. I really thought I would just use one bag of each, but ended up dumping them all in.

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I prepared my pan by lining it with 2 perpendicular sheets of parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray. This way, I would be able to pull out the whole pan of brownies in one graceful lift. The brownies cut easily and evenly with a pizza cutter, once out of the pan.

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The sweetness was mediated by the chocolate syrup, and they turned out almost perfect. I might use just a tad less sugar next time. The ratio of granulated to brown sugar also made the brownies seem to dry out quickly, so next time I would probably reduce the amount of granulated sugar and use the recommended amount of brown sugar.

Recipe: adapted from Hersheys.com

Double Peanut Butter Paisley Brownies
½ c butter, softened
¼ c creamy peanut butter
1 c granulated sugar
1 c packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 snack size bags of peanut butter M&Ms
2 snack size bags of regular M&Ms
½ c Hershey’s Syrup

Heat oven to 350°F. Line a 13×9 inch pan with two criss-crossed sheets of parchment paper, then spray those with cooking spray.

Beat butter and peanut butter in a large bowl. Add sugar and brown sugar; beat well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in vanilla.

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt; mix into peanut butter mixture, blending well. Stir in all the M&Ms. Spread half of batter into pan; spoon syrup over top. Top with remaining batter, and swirl with a knife for a marbled effect.

Bake 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack; then remove from the pan whole using the paper edges to hold onto. Cut into squares.

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September 15, 2008 at 2:22 am (Uncategorized)

My stomach has churned all weekend, sick with worry and updates from Galveston. As a longtime former Galveston resident, married to a BOI, this storm was more personal than others.

I moved to Galveston in 1991, in order to check off “live at the beach” from my Life List. It was there I met my husband. Lived on my own. Made tons of friends. Found ‘my place’ in the world. During college, I walked on the beach every morning, went to class in the afternoon, worked at Yaga’s (then Landry’s, then Randall’s) in the evening, and drank Vodka Collins and shots of tequila at O’Malley’s and Vibes after work.

Nearly every street holds a memory, if not one of mine, one of thousands my husband has retold to me over the years. 33rd street is where we had our bookstore. Somewhere around 23rd and Post Office is where Eric proposed, on a Sunday morning during Mardi Gras. Ave S is where I bought my first house. I was flashed by a perv on 24th street. Went to my first Mardi Gras Parade on 25th and Ave L. I could go on and on.

While I know of one friend who stayed during Hurricane Ike, I know that there are many, many others who chose to test their luck this weekend. I feel as if I nursed Elaine through the hurricane. Convinced that it would not be bad, her house having made it through numerous hurricanes high and dry, she was not worried. She took my calls, early in the week and early on Friday trying to convince me that it wasn’t going to be as bad as they predicted on the news. Then when she called at around 11pm, her voice had changed. I could tell she was worried, if not scared. The water was rising up the porch stairs. It had never done this.

I pulled up NOAA while simultaneously flipping through all the news channels. (By the way, Geraldo is a horse’s ass.) They had been eating ice cream and popsicles since the electricity had gone out earlier in the evening, and the all-weather radio had indicated the possibility of Ike wobbling to the east towards Boliver. This would have been good; they would have then been on the dry side. But everything I could find reported that the eye was heading straight for them, right for the middle of town, pretty much on a direct route across 45th street.

The eye was 60, then 50, then 45 miles in diameter. This means that it was very big, and a wobble would not have changed the impact much at this point, and it also meant that it was intensifying. The reduction in diameter is comparable to the closing of a fist – a palm-open slap is much more tolerable than a fist. But, we still had communication.

Elaine began calling about every hour or so, on the land line in order to save the cell phone battery. “How high is the surge?” “Where is it now?” “How long until the eye hits?” The water was rising slowly; she lives on a historically and relatively high part of the island. All I could tell her was to hang in there. They moved their photos and pictures upstairs, but she stayed on the sofa on the first floor to monitor the water. She could see the water rising under the house, from an old furnace floor vent that they opened. It was high, but never actually came up through the old, oak flooring.

She was going to try to sleep. I dozed off with my phone on my nightstand at about 2:30. She called again at 4:00, this time in a panic. The eye had come ashore at around 1:30, and they waited for an interminable 2 hours in a complete meteorological calm. The water had started to recede. But now it was rising again, and quickly.

I reported what I could. They were smack in the middle of it. There were still 2 to 3 hours worth of outer bands in the gulf, waiting to be pulled onshore. As the eye of Ike crossed onto land, the storm slowed. A slowing storm is never good. As it churns in place, it throws more and more tidal water on shore, spurns tornados, waterspouts, and lightning. I snapped phone pictures of my computer screen showing where Ike was, and sent them to her. She hurried off the phone to call her niece. Elaine texted me later, and I spoke to her briefly the next morning – they were hot and tired. And then we lost communication.

The phone lines are down. They charged cell phones on a generator. This worked until the back-up batteries in the cell towers themselves drained. With no power, the towers can’t send any phone calls. She can still receive texts, I think, but can only place collect calls to a land line. I just got word from a small network of friends and family, that they will probably be forced to leave for at least a month. I’m waiting for more news, and possibly house guests.

That’s what Elaine is doing. We know Henry is probably o.k. He is one of the police officers in command at the San Luis Hotel; we saw him on Fox News. William left and evacuated to Houston; I assume he’s o.k. We still have many more friends who I am wondering and worrying about. I know these Galveston people. They are stubborn, and strive to be self-sufficient. They don’t want to give in to warnings or admit defeat. I hope they all came to their senses before the storm, but I doubt it. They’re probably fine, they’re a resilient lot, but I can’t help worrying.

The call of the ocean is a siren song. With the beautiful sunsets, the hypnotic waves, rolling sea birds, and the fresh ocean breeze, come the mosquitos, ubiquitous rust, incessant humidity, and the very real threat, 5 months out of the year, of storms like Ike.

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Smiley N Pool Chronicle3

September 15, 2008 at 1:24 am (Uncategorized)



Smiley N Pool Chronicle3, originally uploaded by kitchenkam.

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Ike 18

September 15, 2008 at 1:22 am (Uncategorized)



Ike 18, originally uploaded by kaozrider.

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Ike 64

September 15, 2008 at 1:20 am (Uncategorized)



Ike 64, originally uploaded by kaozrider.

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Ike Texas

September 15, 2008 at 1:19 am (Uncategorized)



Ike Texas, originally uploaded by kaozrider.

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Ike Texas

September 15, 2008 at 1:18 am (Uncategorized)



Ike Texas, originally uploaded by kaozrider.

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Galveston, Texas 9.13.08

September 15, 2008 at 1:12 am (Uncategorized)



Galveston, Texas 9.13.08, originally uploaded by American Red Cross.

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Galveston, Texas 9.13.08

September 15, 2008 at 1:11 am (Uncategorized)



Galveston, Texas 9.13.08, originally uploaded by American Red Cross.

Aftermath of Hurricane Ike, courtesy of American Red Cross

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